It isn’t a pleasant thing to think about what might happen if you are unable to direct your own medical care due to an illness, accident, or advanced age. Unfortunately, if you don’t write down your personal wishes regarding your care in the event of an illness and name a person to oversee your care, it will be decided for you. Estranged family members, doctors, and occasionally judges will make health care decisions for you that may be diametrically opposed to your wishes. It’s important to have the proper legal documents prepared to assure the person you choose is directing your medical care when you are not able to.
Health Care Documents
According to NOLO Law, the two basic health care documents you need to fill out are the living will and health care power of attorney. You should complete both forms for your security during a severe illness or injury. Some states combine the two forms into a single document called an advance directive.
According to All Law, a living will is the document that details the exact type of care you wish to receive or refuse in the event you are unable to speak for yourself. A living will is not related to the will written to dispose of property and money at the time of death. The living will is for the sole purpose of dictating your health care preferences, and you can include as much or as little direction as you choose. Designate if you want certain life-prolonging treatments to be performed, such as blood transfusions, diagnostic tests, dialysis, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), drugs, respirator, and surgery. You have the legal right to accept or decline any procedure included in your living will. Your doctor’s office or the local hospital will have printed forms you can fill out with your health care wishes. It’s always best to have someone you trust help with completing the forms. Most states require the forms be notarized upon completion in order to be legal. Give copies of the completed forms to each of your doctors, to the hospital, and to the person who will be in charge of your health care. If you have an attorney, have a copy of your living will placed in your file.
Health Care Power of Attorney
To be sure your final health care wishes are honored, you need to complete a durable power of attorney for health care. Appoint the person you want to be in charge of your health care and to consult with your doctors and other health care providers on your behalf. In the event your doctor decides you are no longer capable (lack capacity) to make your own decision, the health care power of attorney will go into effect. Some states allow you to activate your power of attorney while you are still capable, and you can still dictate the medical care you wish to receive during that activation.
It’s important to plan for your choice of healthcare before you get sick or are severely injured in an accident. It may seem unpleasant to think about, but you will enjoy peace of mind once your documents are completed and placed in the hands of your doctor.